Burnt Out in Lockdown

Thursday, February 04

By Sophie Baird-Parker

I was first diagnosed with social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) when I was 14 years old. I had counselling for a year and a half, and my social anxiety, which seemed to be my most prominent disorder, improved massively. My confidence both in myself and around others improved so much that if you showed a video of me three years ago and a video of me now, you would hardly believe it were the same person.

However, my GAD was never really attended to - I was never taught how to manage it. Once I was discharged from therapy, I was okay for a year or so, until about November 2020, when I noticed my GAD becoming worse.

I had a lot going on in my life in November; I was forced to move out of my childhood home and away from the village where I had grown up, which I found a lot tougher than I expected, my mum was very stressed out with all the moving and we had to move in with my grandparents who are lovely, but can be incredibly overwhelming at times, and my grandad was quite ill, which is worrying especially given the pandemic. My sister’s mental wellbeing was also not great, which brought me down even more as I was worrying about her constantly.

School became an escape - I got to see my friends who always brought me up, and lessons kept me distracted.

So naturally, when the Christmas holidays came and were immediately followed by another national lockdown, I crumbled.

We’re now on week five of online school. It didn’t start so bad, I found it quite manageable. Then, a situation that’s been in my life for a few years became worse, and all the work we were being set became too overwhelming, so much that I simply became burnt out, and stopped doing my work altogether, only to then panic at the last minute and rush it or just hand it in half-complete. I spoke to a couple of my teachers about it who were thankfully very understanding, but I still felt pressured to get the work done. I was a fairly bright kid all throughout primary and high school; I couldn’t let myself slip now and let my parents down. Plus, it’s hardly as if I could avoid the work - if I didn’t attend or didn’t hand in a piece of homework, my mum would receive an email from my school about it, then forcing me to do the work, even if it wasn’t good quality. I started making up scores for my homeworks because I didn’t want my teachers or my parents to see that I wasn’t doing good, and I really didn’t want to talk to them about it or get put on yet another waiting list for therapy. It was just better to suffer in silence.

Even worse was when my mum then tested positive for Covid-19 (she wasn’t very ill with it and recovered well), so I had to self isolate for ten days. It was hell, without any social interaction I fell to pieces and spent most of the days sleeping. My friends and I had all still been in touch, calling each other from time to time, but I found myself not being as sociable as usual, sometimes going hours without replying to a message because most days, I woke up with little to no energy to talk to anybody. I became very irritable, often snapping at my family for simply breathing too loud. By the time I finally got to see any of my friends in person, it had been over three weeks and I didn’t realise how much I had been struggling without them until then. I had stopped looking after myself because all I was doing all day was a bit of school work and then wallowing in bed; I would leave ages between showers and I would wear the same clothes for many days in a row, because I felt like I had nothing to get ready for anyway. I also found myself with an online shopping problem, where I would impulsively buy things even if I didn’t need them, just for the thrill of having post arrive and unboxing it.

Luckily, the situation which kicked off my downward spiral improved and my mental health became a lot better with it. Even though the school have taken some of the pressure off now, I’m still struggling with the workload, but it’s certainly a lot more manageable, and I’m struggling because I have no passion for my subjects rather than being overwhelmed (I guess that’s just one of the things that comes with studying science A-Levels while wanting to pursue a career in journalism, more on that later perhaps?). I’m looking after myself, prioritising my wellbeing and longing for the days where I can go to school and see all of my friends together once again.

If you’re struggling right now, remember that you’re never alone in what you’re going through. Things are really tough, especially right now, don’t be afraid to reach out if you need support. It may not feel like it, but it does get better, I promise.

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